Do you ever have times when God is practically screaming something at you and it takes a while for you to hear it? Recently, I heard a sermon about Joseph. In the car the next day, my kids and I were listening to our “Bible in Drama” CD’s. The story of Joseph came on. I listened, and thought, “Interesting, I just heard this yesterday.” A few days later, I heard a message on the radio about, you guessed it, Joseph. I still didn’t get it. Finally, the very next morning, as I opened my children’s devotional book, the story was all about Joseph, there was even an ornament to add to the tree, here it is:
Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors
Even I’m not that slow. God was gently trying to tell me something. He was trying to get me to see this old story in a new light. He’s such a gentleman! He gives me, his silly, distracted, and unorganized daughter, loving hints, until a light bulb turns on. So even though it’s a familiar story to me, I decided to study it a bit more. If you don’t know the story, or it’s been a while, check it out in Genesis 37. But let me refresh your memory if it’s been a while. Joseph is the favored son of Jacob. He is the first-born son of Jacob’s one true love, Rachel. He has eleven brothers. Ten of them, the sons of Leah, really don’t like their father’s favorite. The twelfth son, Joseph’s only full-blooded brother, is really young and doesn’t have much of a role in this story. All of these sons are really, really important. They each go on to become the fathers of their own special Tribe of Israel. These are the very fathers of God’s chosen people.
Now, God gives Joseph special dreams, the kind of dreams that make the ten brothers like him even less. Then, as if he wasn’t different and, dare I say, spoiled enough, dad gives the beloved son a beautiful, special, colorful coat. Then, Jacob sends the special son to check up on his naughty brothers while they are away tending flocks. As soon as Joseph gets there, his brothers jump at the chance to get rid of this pesky kid once and for all. After narrowly escaping death, the young Joseph, favored among all the sons, innocent and blameless, is sold into slavery.
The son who was loved and honored is now a slave. He was once free, he now lives in servitude. He was worthy, beloved, and treasured. Now he is forgotten and thought of as nothing. He had become a prisoner. Now he was made captive by his own family. His own brothers, out of hatred and jealousy, gave in to their most cruel desires to be rid of their brother.
Joseph’s story goes on and there’s a big reason, lots of them really, that he had to go through the trauma of losing his family and being sent to another country. His life is redeemed, and his family is literally saved because of his blameless life. But for some reason when I went over the story again in my mind, and read it, I was drawn to the scene where the brothers actually sell their brother.
Was there some hidden gem waiting to be found at the bottom of a cistern, a filthy pit, where young Joseph was thrown? I had to go deeper. I realized that the pit scene was bothering me because it was such a blatantly wrong thing to do. The brothers were in deliberate sin. The lone voice of reason comes from the oldest brother in verses 21-22, Ruben, “Tried to rescue Joseph from their hands.” But he was unsuccessful in secretly releasing Joseph before the others sold him to a band of traveling merchants. I looked closer.
I really tried to feel what the characters were going through. Joseph, hurled into a pit, was terrorized at the thought of his brothers’ murderous intentions. He was probably crying and screaming. I can imagine what he would have cried out. “You don’t want to do this! Think of father!” The pleas go unheeded. The brothers, the fathers of the chosen tribes of Israel, continue plotting the death of their own flesh and blood. Then, verse 25 says, “As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming…” They were eating dinner, and they decided to sell their brother, for twenty shekels of silver. It made me angry with those nasty brothers. How could God’s chosen sons, the treasured and promised of Israel, be so filled with evil?
Then it hit me. In a split second, I suddenly heard what God was trying to tell me. I am a chosen daughter of God, just like the ten, hateful brothers. They chose to sin. I choose sin all the time. I choose to throw all the good things I know to be true, into a pit. Their sin of choice was different than mine. I choose to let anger take hold. I choose to forsake time with God. I choose to be selfish. I choose to throw my own innocence into a pit and forsake what I know to be right. I’m no different than the ten brothers. I was instantly humbled. Pride had blinded me to what God was trying to show me. It’s a new year. I’m forsaking “resolutions” and adopting a simple word for my year’s theme. It’s, self-control. I don’t want to sit by the pit, plotting and pondering ways to get away with my sin! I refuse to allow evil to take over. I want to pull my innocence back out of the pit and let it live in my life. I hope you’ll join me. What one word would you choose to focus on this year? What have you been tossing into your pit? Maybe there’s one word that is coming to you now. But, here are some ideas, see if one jumps out at you:
Ladies, there are thousands more. Each of them are gifts God longs to give you, His chosen one. Open just one of them up. Explore it, ponder it, memorize a verse about it. See what can come if you only seek after Him.
Could you use the ten brother’s story to remind you to choose the right thing this year? When you see the old patterns of sin creeping up this year, remember Joseph and his brothers. Use self-control and stand up for what you know God wants from you. I’ll be praying for you as we take this journey together. I encourage you to leave the word you choose and any details about how you are specifically going to do this in 2015 in your comments!
Writing in answer to His call, Hosanna Barton